Easter Panzanella

011Easter lunch at our house was a success.  We combined a delicious make-ahead meal with the joy of celebrating Resurrection with family and good friends around our table.  Make that tableS because we had thirteen happy diners here last Sunday.  I learned a long time ago that the secret to making good food for guests while enjoying it myself lies in doing almost everything the day before.  Several parts of this meal will be featured in the posts this month, but today’s salad was my favorite.

Panzanella is a traditional dish made in various parts of central Italy, particularly Florence.  There are many variations but almost all use stale bread, cubed, and combined with tomatoes plus other summertime vegetables and basil.  This recipe combines several of those with inspiration from Ina Garten’s preparation for one she calls Greek Panzanella.  I like the addition of feta cheese and Kalamata olives as well her method of pan toasting the bread cubes which go well with the crunchiness of all the fresh vegetables. More traditional bread salad will have the bread cubes soaked in marinade, making a softer ingredient.

Easter Panzanella

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

6-8 cups of bread cubed from Ciabbata or Rosemary Bread

4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved – or  tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 English cucumbers, sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 yellow bell pepper,  cut into 1-inch cubes

1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced

Kalamata olives pitted, 1 cups

Feta cheese, crumbled, 2 cups

Fresh basil for garnish, optional

For the vinaigrette:

4 garlic pods, minced 

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

6 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1  teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Wash all vegetables and pat dry.  Remove seeds from peppers, chop, and place in a large bowl. Add  sliced tomatoes.  Halve the cucumbers lengthwise.  Using the tip of a teaspoon, run  gently down the center to scoop out any seeds, then lay the cucumber halves down to slice and add them along with sliced red onion to the other veggies.  Toss to combine.  If you are making this ahead of time, place each vegetable in a zip loc bag and refrigerate until serving time. I prefer to slice tomatoes at the last minute as they tend to soften.

Prepare vinaigrette by whisking together red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside

Heat olive oil in a large iron skillet. Add the bread ; cook over, stirring often, for 8- 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil if needed.   Add  crumbled feta cheese, olives, and  bread cubes to chopped vegetables, then toss with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil.

Flavor improves by allowing this to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Mango Salsa

IMG_0217Tomato salsa  may be our most frequent accompaniment to eggs, Mexican food, and tortilla chips – but fruit salsas compete strongly for favorites.  Among those, mango salsa is at the top of the list.  It may be hard to save a mango or two when I bring them home because we love them plain and with Greek yogurt.  Last week I used the last two out of a carton of six to make this beautiful topping for baked fish. I have also used it to layer over a roasted pork tenderloin or to dress up grilled chicken breasts.  If there happens to be any leftover, we pull out the corn chips and have a snack.

Mango Salsa

2 mangos, peeled and diced*
2 medium Jalapenos, seeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper
Combine the mango, , Jalapeno, red onion, lime juice and cilantro leaves and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste
* I wash and pat dry the mango, stand vertically with stem end down, and with a sharp knife, slice down by the side of the large seed, repeating on the other side.  Then lay each mango half in the palm of my left hand, and with a small paring knife, carefully cut into the mango, making diagonal cuts in opposite directions. Then I turn the mango half inside out, and the cut sections pop out.  These can easily be scraped off with a spoon or the paring knife.


Homemade Barbecue Sauce with Coffee

Grilled chicken and steak are a great way to avoid heating up my kitchen this summer.  Quick sauces and glazes brushed on near the end of cooking can add flavor and variety without adding a lot of work.  I keep purchased barbecue sauce in my pantry, but occasionally I love going back to a homemade barbecue sauce I have been concocting for over forty years!  Coffee is the basic ingredient – surprise!  It not only adds a rich depth of flavor, but has a tenderizing  effect as well.  I even use leftover coffee in making pot roast, but that is another story and another post!  Stir this sauce together and simmer briefly, and sop it on after chicken breasts or beef is almost finished cooking.  It keeps well in the refrigerator, and is good to add to leftover pulled pork or chicken for sandwiches. If your family likes some heat in their barbecue, add a couple of sliced jalapenos or a dash of Tabasco!

1 cup  ketchup
1 cup brewed coffee
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

Combine ketchup, coffee, brown sugar, onion, garlic, and chili powder in a saucepan; bring to a boil, simmer 10 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in pepper, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce.


A cold rainy Saturday morning begs for a hearty breakfast. This skillet breakfast is delicious and filling.  Eggs and cheese star in a number of recipes for any meal, but the addition of corn tortillas and picante sauce make this one a spicy treat for your taste buds! 


3 or 4 small red potatoes, unpeeled and diced

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped jalapeno

Olive or coconut oil for cooking

4 eggs

1/4 cup picante sauce

1/2 cup grated cheese plus a little more for topping

1/2 cup crushed corn tortilla chips or more to taste

sea salt

Heat small amount of oil in skillet and add onions, peppers,  and potato. Saute until potato pieces soften and begin to brown. Sprinkle with sea salt. Scramble eggs and picante sauce together and pour into potato mixture.  Cook, folding the edges back from the sides, until eggs are almost done.  Add tortilla chips and cheese and mix to stir.  Serve on hot plates with added picante sauce and cheese on top. Garnish with whole chips and fresh cilantro if desired.  Cook’s note:  I frequently use a time-saving shortcut for the potatoes, onions, and peppers – 1/2  cup of a frozen hash brown potato, onion, and pepper mixture called Potatoes O’Brien which is sold in the freezer case along with other hash browns. If I use this, I still like to add a fresh jalapeno.  Hot flour tortillas are a good accompaniment. Serves 4.


When I started Kitchen Keepers, I suggested this food blog would include old favorites as well as new dishes that become a favored family dish.  This summer while my tomato plants were still producing abundantly and there were plenty of peppers, I discovered this spicy eggy dish that I made one morning and several since.  It is definitely a keeper, but hard to say whether it is best for breakfast, brunch, a light lunch, or supper!

You may be wondering about the title.  Isn’t it fun to say?  Shakshouka is a staple of  Moroccan cuisines, and is also popular in Israel (the name is derived from leshakshek (meaning “to shake” in Hebrew)  where it is said to challenge hummus and falafel as a national favourite, especially in the winter. It is traditionally served up in a cast iron pan with bread to mop up the sauce. I add both sweet and hot peppers,  garlic, – the possibilities are endless!
1 large onion, chopped 

 4 eggs

Olive oil 

 6 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 each sweet and hot peppers, or to taste

 salt and pepper
Saute onion and peppers  in olive oil  until golden.
Add tomatoes. Cover and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes.
 Remove cover and break the eggs over the vegetables.
 Replace cover and cook on medium  for approximately 5 minutes or until the eggs are firm.
 Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Very good served with pita or other flatbread.

Taking the Heat, Hatch Chile Rellenos

       Record drought and heat is the story for our Texas summer!  We pulled up the tomato plants that had stopped producing when temperatures soared to make way for fall garden planting.  A few weeks ago we put in a half dozen new plants that are struggling even with extra water and bandana coverings for shade.  The peppers are a different story.  It is if they just now picked up speed.  I have Big Bertha (yellow) and  Purple Beauty, Gypsy and Garden Salsa and Tobasco.  They are plucky and heat defiant.  I have been getting peppers in our CSA share as well which introduced us to a new heirloom variety,  named after Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina. Aconcagua are hearty, grow to amazing lengths,are delicious stuffed, and add flavor to many vegetable dishes and sauces.  Late August is also the  time for Hatch Chile Peppers from New Mexico to appear in our supermarkets.  Every year I find  new recipes to try with their heat.  Hatch Chile Rellenos is my favorite.   I already have the peppers ready to roast and fill with goat cheese, pine nuts, and raisins!

 Hatch Chile Rellenos

8-10 large Hatch chile peppers, roasted, stemmed, seeded, and sliced lengthwise 

9 ounces goat cheese

3 ounces raisins.

2 ounces pine nuts, lightly toasted 

sea salt, to taste 

1 cup Crema Mexicana 

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

 Combine goat cheese, raisins, and pine nuts with a sprinkle of sea salt.  Lay the peppers in baking pan, stuff with cheese mixture.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

 In a small pan, heat the crema Mexicana over LOW heat until it is warm.  Drizzle chiles with warm crema. Garnish with cilantro and serve.